It was Friday morning, and I was on my way to the office. As usual, I knocked on Sergey’s door (a few floors downstairs) to pick him up for the daily commute. He opened the door. “Can you come in for a moment?” he asked. “I have something to show you.”
Now, the last time Sergey said that, he had a bouquet of roses waiting for me inside. This time, it is a rat. I don’t want to read too much into what this means about the progress of our friendship, but…perhaps some backstory is in order.
First, Sergey and I had watched Ratatouille, which I find an unbeatably adorable movie. I mean, a French foodie rat with family problems? So cute.
A few days later, the movie really came to life.
Apparently, Sergey’s version of the gourmand critter flew/climbed in through the kitchen window. Yeah, Israeli rats climb walls and break into apartments. He and his flat-mate, upon discovering their guest, hid nearly all the food and dish ware and sterilized the kitchen. They left out sticky traps, peanut butter scented, to catch the beast. But this rat was smart, and, while avoiding the traps, went for the real peanut butter, nearly gnawing through the lid. I had to admire its palate and persistence.
The final weapon in the weeklong battle of man versus rodent was old-fashioned rat traps. That is how on that Friday morning there came to be one terrified rat cowering piteously in the corner of a trap on the kitchen counter as I looked on. Seriously, it was so pathetically afraid–trembling, big beady eyes panicked, squeaking whenever Sergey spoke or moved.
In the abstract, I don’t think retaining vermin is wise. Rats carry all sorts of pestilence and are a health danger to humans. But, watching this creature, clearly so afraid to die, how could we do anything besides give it freedom? So outside we went with this pet, and released it into some bushes. It ran off without so much as a backward glance.
TO A RAT (apologies to Robert Burns)
Small, worm-tailed wee creature,
with dirty paws your concerning feature,
why do you choose to live
‘neath this ancient fridge?
At quiet hours you grow spunky
and gnaw a banana like a monkey
leaving your marks of hunger
for us in the morning to discover.
I am sorry that we curse your life,
tempting you with cruel delights,
tidbits luring you into traps like sirens,
rewarding your desire with a prison.
But, wise rat, you chose well your abode
for herein dwells a gentle landlord
who cages and evicts you without pain or loss–
though perchance you will miss this kind host.
Check out “To a Mouse” for the classic rodent ode.